By Anthony Paull
Dad thinks it’s OK if he farts in my face, because he’s recovering from heart surgery and that’s just part of my new full-time job as his personal assistant. You see, it’s not him doing it; it’s the medication. It depletes him of the keen ability to hold his butt-cheeks together long enough to make it to the bathroom.
“Who ever knew your ass was so loose?” I play with him, rather than argue about the despicable matter for the third time today. Mind you, this I how I grant myself a breather, a short reprieve where I can relax long enough to laugh. Lately, it seems, we haven’t been doing enough of that. Not since dad made it through his quintuple bypass surgery. Five days ago, my brother had phoned me from the ER to relay the information that my father had suffered a heart attack. Now, we’re all back at the house, where I’m woken up daily by the piercing rattle of a cowbell, meaning dad either has to pee or down a pill. It’s all quite fun, honestly. That is, if you can ignore dad’s irritability due to being void of a smoke. And did I mention his incessant jabs about gay men?
“What do you mean you want me to suck on this? I’m not gay. That’s your department,” he tells me, as I hand him a small tube that’s supposed to prevent him from catching pneumonia after the surgery. Sucking and blowing on it is said to stir the fluid in his lungs.
“Dad, please … pretend it’s a cigarette,” I reply. Mind you, it’s 7 a.m., and my patience is Lindsay Lohan-thin.
“Fine,” he grunts, before attempting the feat, which he can’t seem to do. Of course, he wants me to show him, and oh how he gets a kick out of telling me that I could suck the sand out of a tornado.
“Oh, you know me. That’s why I was soooooooo popular in college,” I smile, returning the jab, ever so gently. “Best blow-jobs in the tri-state area.”
“It’s a shame,” dad huffs to himself. “How did you get like that?”
Good question, I ask myself, while handing him his colorful assortment of meds. Homosexuality: that gift was bestowed upon me at birth. But where did I obtain this nutty personality that lacks a stop-switch when it pertains to making the most inappropriate comments at the inappropriate time?
Picture the intensive care unit. Overhead, white fluorescent lighting blinds dad as a fiery fleet of female nurses hover over him to make sure he’s comfortable. Resting in bed, he has more tubes in him than Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix,” and each time a nurse is naive enough to get close, he whispers, sounding oh, so Long Island, “C’mere, give me a kiss.” Disturbed, the nurses look to me for assistance.
“Oh, don’t mind him,” I assure them. “In his condition, he can’t even get his dick hard.” Then crickets, followed by a moment of my awkward laughter, as I wave goodbye to the nurse exiting the room.
Dear God, why do I say these things? Why does life suddenly feel like a bad reality TV show, sans the camera, wherever I go? I’m trying to figure out where it all went foggy, but I’m too busy waving away the gas fumes permeating the house, where dad has decided it’s OK to fart, particularly when I’m standing behind him. “Anthony, I don’t care anymore. I’m tired of keeping up appearances,” he tells me. Then he lets another rip, before voicing an utterly pathetic, “Sorry.”
“My God! Will you stop? I don’t want to smell your ass!” I scream.
That’s when I realize: I’ve become my dad. Aiding in his recovery process, I’ve morphed into the potty-mouthed parent who ridicules him for inappropriate behavior, even when I act no better myself. How did this happen? One day, is it inevitable for all of us to become our parents and then poorly parent them just as they have parented us? Is it merely karma’s way of granting us a chance to return the favor of mashing our brains since birth? Daily, dad and I go back and forth, tirelessly arguing about gay this, straight that, firing off rounds of ammunition in regard to who’s right. I swear; the profanity could decimate the Vatican. Still, I’ve come to realize, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s odd; most of us spend a lifetime battling loved ones before we realize that without love, there is no battle, and without battle there is no love.
It took dad nearly dying for me to figure it out. So for me, it’s OK to fight; it means we may not always agree, but at least we care enough to say it. Still, if only dad had another way of showing he cares so much.
“The meds … they’re constipating me,” he moans, as I help him into bed. “It hurts. You don’t know the pain.” A moment later, he recants the statement. “Well, you like it in the butt, so you probably do.”
“No one said love comes easy,” I reply, kissing his bald head. Reaching for his cowbell, he taps it to ensure it’s by his side. It’s hard for him to sleep, because he feels that if he stops breathing, no one will remember him. No one will care.
“I care, papa,” I offer. And for once, he doesn’t argue the point. Instead, he closes his eyes, farts, and loves me enough to fight about it the next morning.